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TOTAL INTERNAL REFLECTION

Total internal reflection is an optical phenomenon that happens when a ray of light strikes a medium boundary at an angle larger than a particular critical angle with respect to the normal to the surface. If the refractive index is lower on the other side of the boundary and the incident angle is greater than the critical angle, no light can pass through and all of the light is reflected. When light crosses a boundary between materials with different refractive indices, the light beam will be partially refracted at the boundary surface, and partially reflected. However, if the angle of incidence is greater (i.e. the ray is closer to being parallel to the boundary) than the critical angle- the angle of incidence at which light is refracted such that it travels along the boundary – then the light will stop crossing the boundary altogether and instead be totally reflected back internally.

Two Requirements for Total Internal Reflection
Total internal reflection (TIR) is the phenomenon that involves the reflection of all the incident light off the boundary. TIR only takes place when both of the following two conditions are met:

• the light is in the more dense medium and approaching the less dense medium.

• the angle of incidence is greater than the so-called critical angle. .

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the stream of water acts as a light pipe to pipe the laser beam along its trajectory. The beam of laser light is then directed into the jug from the opposite side of the hole. through the water and into the falling stream. The laser light exists the jug through the hole but is still in the water. water begins to stream out the jug’s side. and being at angles of incidence greater than the critical angle. the laser light becomes trapped within the water due to total internal reflection. Being in the more dense medium (water) and heading towards a boundary with a less dense medium (air). As the stream of water begins to fall as a projectile along a parabolic path to the ground. . the light never leaves the stream of water.An experiment involving the use of a large jug filled with water and a laser beam also based on total internal reflection concept. The jug has a pea sized hole drilled in its side such that when the cork is removed from the top of the jug. In fact.

The critical angle ic can be determined from the general form of Snell’s Law. The incident ray undergoes total internal reflection at any angle greater than the critical angle. If the incident angle is less than or equal to the critical angle. A high relative index of refraction (the ratio n2/n1 ) will result in a smaller critical angle. At this angle the refracted ray glances parallel to the boundary. It is the angle of incidence for which the angle of refraction is 90°.What is the Critical Angle? The critical angle is the angle of incidence above which the total internal reflection occurs. so sin ic ═ n2\n1 . so sinR = 1 and sin ic ═ n2 sin 90° n1 sin 90° ═ 1. R = 90°. At the critical angle. the refracted ray will be bent away from the normal (provided that n2 < n1 ).

TIR would happen for light traveling from water towards air. the angle of incidence is greater than the so-called critical angle. but it will not happen for light traveling from air towards water.Two Requirements for Total Internal Reflection Total internal reflection (TIR) is the phenomenon that involves the reflection of all the incident light off the boundary.333) towards crown glass (n=1. TIR will happen for light traveling from water towards air.52) . TIR only takes place when both of the following two conditions are met: the light is in the more dense medium and approaching the less dense medium. Total internal reflection will not take place unless the incident light is traveling within the more optically dense medium towards the less optically dense medium. but it will not happen for light traveling from water (n=1.

Suppose that a laser beam is submerged in a tank of water (don't do this at home) and pointed upwards towards water-air boundary. Optical Density and the Index of Refraction . we will begin with a thought experiment. But that's not the only observation that we could make. we would expect that we would observe both reflection and refraction. What would be observed in such an experiment? If we understand the principles of boundary behavior. beginning with small angles of incidence and proceeding towards larger and larger angles of incidence.To understand total internal reflection. At angle of incidence close to 0 degrees. And indeed. Then suppose that the angle at which the beam is directed upwards is slowly altered. that is what is observed (mostly). We would also observe that the intensity of the reflected and refracted rays do not remain constant. most of the light energy is transmitted across the boundary and very little of it is reflected.

highest optical density <--lowest optical density . The materials listed at the bottom of the table are those through which light travels slowest.907 Gallium phosphide 3. these are the most optically dense materials.Material Index of Refraction Vacuum 1. The materials listed at the top of the table are those through which light travels fastest.36 Diamond 2.50 <-. So as the index of refraction value increases.333 Ethyl Alcohol 1. the optical density increases.0003 Water 1.417 Rutile 2. and the speed of light in that material decreases.0000 Air 1.The table below lists index of refraction values for a variety of medium. these are the least optically dense materials.

what happens will depend on the angle. The semi-circular shape ensures that a ray pointing towards the centre of the flat face will hit the curved surface at a right angle. At the glass/air boundary of the flat surface.Total internal reflection in a semi-circular acrylic block Total internal reflection can be demonstrated using a semi-circular block of glass or plastic. Where θc is the critical angle measurement which is caused by the sun or a light source (measured normal to the surface): . A "ray box" shines a narrow beam of light (a "ray") onto the glass. this will prevent refraction at the air/glass boundary of the curved surface.

This physical property makes optical fibers useful and prismatic binoculars possible. as diamond has an unusually high refractive index. . It is also what gives diamonds their distinctive sparkle.

Examples of Total Internal Reflection Following are some examples based on Total Internal Reflection phenomenon: 1. The light enters the optical fiber. Fiber optic Cables use total internal reflection inside the optical Fibre. and every time it strikes the edge of the fiber it experiences total internal reflection. . This way the light travels down the length of the optical fiber.

In addition the light of different colors is refracted at different angles to separate the colors in an effect called dispersion. . The light is totally internally reflected inside the raindrop before leaving. Rainbows from when light enters raindrops. Binoculars use prisms to reflect light. The light enters the prism in such a way that it will strike the other side of the prism and be totally internally reflected. The prism can in this way act as a mirror.2. 3.

4.The brilliance of diamonds results from light entering the diamond and being totally internally reflected from the opposite side before exiting in approximately the original direction. .

taking a glass tumbler. its surface appears mirror-like. the plug hole and plug are visible since the angle of refraction between glass and water is not greater than the critical angle. the water in the tumbler drains out leaving the glass filled with air. and placing it upside-down over the plug hole (with the tumbler completely filled with water). Total internal reflection can be observed while swimming. and this then acts as the plug. One can demonstrate total internal reflection by filling a sink or bath with water. While water remains both in the upturned tumbler and in the sink surrounding it. when one opens one's eyes just under the water's surface. If the drain is opened and the tumbler is kept in position over the hole. . If the water is calm.Examples in everyday life Total internal reflection can be seen at the airwater boundary.